Fats And Fatty Acids
Fats And Fatty Acids
Susan Silberstein & Marilyn Joyce (Health and Nutrition Educator & Heath Counselor) gives expert video advice on: How do fats become nutritionally unsafe?; What foods have the most omega-3 fatty acids? and more...
What are "fats"?
Fat is important to our health, it's what we call a macronutrient, we cannot live well without fat. Fats are important for energy, for our cellular membranes, for the integrity of our nerve system and in order to help our hormone balance. There are a number of different types of fats. The two big classes are saturated and unsaturated. Saturated fats come largely from the animal sources, and they tend to promote disease, whereas the unsaturated fats largely come from the plant sources, and they tend to be protective of disease. Now once we look at the unsaturated fats, many people have heard of omega 3s and omega 6s and omega 9s. They're important too. Foods are generally combinations of those fats, but foods that are very high in omega 3s can really support our immune systems. Foods that are high in omega 6s are tending to suppress our immune systems, and the omega 9s are generally neutral, neither enhancing nor supressing immune function.
How do fats become nutritionally unsafe?
Fats per se are not necessarily dangerous. However, poor quality fats certainly are.Fats that have been exposed to the elements of air or heat or light can denature very quickly producing free radicals- or what we call lipid peroxides which are dangerous compounds that are implicated in the aging process, the cancer process, the cardiovascular problems that we have.They are probably also implicated in diabetes and in Parkinson's disease and other conditions as well.
Why are saturated fats bad for my health?
Saturated fats are what we commonly find in animal products, and some plants as well. For example, we hear a lot about coconut. The fact of the matter is that it's predominantly animal foods that are high in saturated fats. They are not conducive to health, overall; they actually result in high concentrations of what we call low-density lipoproteins, which are unhealthy cholesterol, and they reduce the high density lipoproteins, which we want more of. In unsaturated fats, what we find is that we have a higher level of production of the HDLs, or high-density lipoproteins. We need those. We have a lower production of the lower-density lipoproteins with unsaturated fats, which are what we don't want so much of. Unsaturated fats cause a lower level triglycerides than saturated fats, which are also attributed to heart disease and Alzheimer's, and potentially cancer and other major degenerative illnesses.
What are "trans fatty acids"?
Trans fatty acids are hydrogenated fats. We did was that we hydrogenated (added hydrogen molecules to) the oils in order to preserve their shelf life. Oils are very volatile so they'll go rancid very quickly due to high temperatures (even just hot temperatures in a room) or due to the wrong colour of bottle. You need to buy oils that are in a green or a brown bottle so that the light isn't destroying the oil's molecular structure. However, what they do is they add the hydrogen molecules to create this oil that can sit on a shelf for years, probably in many cases, but what you're getting is a rancid fat, but you can't taste the rancidity until it's really rancid. Rancid oil will create free radicals in your body; that's what the result is. Those free radicals are the cause of all degenerative illnesses that we face today. So, you want to avoid oils that are hydrogenated because it's truly a rancid fat that you just don't realise is rancid.
What are "omega-3 fatty acids"?
Omega-3 fatty acids are essential fatty acids. We must get them from our diet; we cannot get them from our body. The body does not make them so it is essential to get them from the foods we eat. The greatest plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids is flak seeds. Ground flak seeds are great to add to anything; smoothies, soups, salad dressings, whatever. Flak seed oil is another alternative but with that we don't have the high concentration of lignants or the fibre that is in the flak seed, so you need the complex of both. In the fish family, we know that there are certain fish that are extremely high in omega-3 fatty acids, predominantly wild fish. The farm fish may or may not have the omega-3s but the wild fish definitely do, especially we hear salmon, ahi tuna, or sea bass. These are good quality fish for the omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are essential for brain function, for cellular integrity; for cellular function in general. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease, cancer, and heart disease, and the list goes on. It's just very essential to get these Omega-3 fatty acids into our body in order to function normally.
What foods have the most omega-3 fatty acids?
Foods that are high in omega-3 include wild fish, free-roaming hens and their eggs, flax seeds- fresh ground, of course. Also raw walnuts and raw pumpkin seeds.
Why should I eat fewer omega-6 fatty acids?
It is important for us to eat foods that are quite low in omega-6 fats. Omega-6 fatty acids play important roles for our health but we have to have a crucial balance between turning on our immune system and turning off our immune system. The ideal ratio between the omega-3 fatty acids that enhance immune function, and the omega-6 fatty acids that suppress immune function, is a ratio of about one to one. We don't want an immune system turned on all the time. We don't want it turned off all the time. The typical American diet has an omega-6 fatty acid to omega-3 fatty acid ratio of about twenty five to one, possibly thirty to one. Now, that is thirty to one against our immune system. Foods that are high in omega-6 fatty acids are generally the oils; the expressed concentrated oils that we used to think were the heart healthy oils. In fact, they are not, and they include soybean oil, safflower oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, and cottonseed oil.